To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.
For many people, the combined planting, nourishing and enjoyment of a garden is a metaphor for life (and relationships). If, for instance, you leave everything to the whims of Mother Nature, the result is often wild, unruly and a riot of colorfully buggy confusion. If you repeatedly douse your plants with more water than they need to flourish, they will drown. Conversely, if you totally neglect them or fail to watch for warning signs that something is amiss, they will wither and die. Nor is the size of a garden - or the expense of the blooms – necessarily proportionate to the visual pleasure it delivers, for a tiny window box lovingly tended can generate just as many smiles as a sprawling public park.
Garden themes have been featured in several Hollywood movies including “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), “Being There” (1979), “Green Card” (1990), and “The Secret Garden” (1993), which was adapted from the children's classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Television is keen on gardens as well with the BBC series, “Rosemary and Thyme” (2003-2006), which pairs two mystery-solving horticulture professionals. You can also get your fill of breathtaking gardens of the world via websites such as http://www.gardensoftheworld.org, http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/top-10/gardens, and http://www.travelandleisure.com/slideshows/great-botanical-gardens-of-the-world.
This month’s lesson plans are all about watching your own seeds of inspiration grow into amazing stories!
These discussion questions provide a good foundation prior to choosing which exercises to try first.
A STROLL IN THE GARDEN
The Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens) is one of many iconic places in the City of Lights, Paris. In the famous movie and stage production adaptations of Victor Hugo’s massive tale “Les Miserables”, it is the Gardens where the characters Marius Pontmercy and Cosette first meet and ultimately become the romantic interests of this great work. But it doesn’t happen overnight, and indeed Marius spends hours upon hours simply watching Cosette from afar as she walks through the Gardens with her father, the mysterious Jean Valjean.
Your assignment: Write a one page treatment for a movie where the romantic leads are a young paparazzo and a rising teen star. The photographer regularly sees the actress at her favorite locations and snaps pictures. At first annoyed, over time they grow fond of each other.
WE ARE NOT AMUSED
Flowers are universally seen as a symbol of life and renewal. The link between flowers and the ebb and flow of nature extends to the use of flowers in funeral ceremonies in many cultures across the globe. Specifically, daisies have found their way into the vocabulary of death and funerals beginning centuries ago. The TV comedy/drama “Pushing Daisies” (2007-09)centered on the adventures of a man who could bring people back to life momentarily with a touch.
Your assignment: Write three pages of dialogue for a sitcom set at a funeral home. The owner of the home, a somewhat shy older gentleman, is interviewing for a new assistant. The applicant is a Goth girl in her mid-twenties who goes by the name of Daisy Pusher and who has her own Victorian black garden – something she wants to import to the business. What are her ideas about the business, of using black flowers (orchids for examples) for ceremonies? What is the owner’s reaction?
PLANTING THE SEEDS
When someone is suddenly placed into a new environment, the results can be comedic, tragic, or even transformative. In the “Wizard of Oz” (1939), Dorothy’s comment “There’s no place like home” was referring to the farmlands of her native Kansas. In “Cold Comfort Farm” (1995), the character Flora Poste moves to the country to develop her career as a writer. The odd collection of people she meets proves inspiring for her both as a writer and as a person.
Your assignment: Write a two page treatment for a movie where the lead character – a college sophomore from a prestigious college in New England – spends the summer at a relative’s farm in Iowa. As part of being there, your lead character is given a plot of land and the charge to grow something. From tilling to planting to fertilizing and watering that small plot is entirely the responsibility of him/her. What is grown? How does it turnout? What lessons in life does your character learn over the summer?
A ROSE IS A ROSE
There are many names parents give their children that are names of flowers. Some, like Daisy, Rose, or Violet are commonplace. But organic names aren’t just inspired by flowers. Basil and Sage are herbs, Kale is a leafy green that both boys and girls are named, and every now and then some little bundle of joy is given the name Apple to carry with them through life’s journeys. In “Because I Said So” (2007), Dianne Keaton plays an overbearing mother who tries to find the right man for her daughter, who recently broke up with her boyfriend. Needless to say, mother’s efforts are neither appreciated nor successful.
Your assignment: Write a two page dialogue where mother (soon to be grandmother) is talking to daughter (soon to be mother) about what name should the child have. The mother’s name is Jasmine Lavender, and the daughter’s Azalea Blossom. What’s their last name? Does Azalea want to break the mold? What possible deeper issues arise from this conversation?
In the movie “Scent of a Woman” (1992) Al Pacino portrays retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, who is blind. The film was an adaptation of an earlier Italian film of the same title produced in 1974, where the protagonist, a blind Italian Army Captain, proclaimed that he could tell whether a woman was beautiful by her scent. The story of the great French swordsman and poet, Cyrano de Bergerac, has been often told since the writing the play by Edmund Rostand in 1897. Cyrano, of course, is best known for his prodigious nose and for his unrequited love for his fair Roxanne.
Your assignment: Write a three page dialogue between Colonel Slade and Cyrano, set in a beautiful rose garden, the two are seated on a bench. They talk of life, love and, of course, what their senses cannot provide to them. Cyrano, it turns out, was wounded in his last duel in of all places, his nose. And he cannot smell.
As part of my ongoing commitment to supply great lesson plans for today’s classrooms, I always enjoy getting feedback on how the material is used and what kind of new content you’d like to see in future columns. I’m also happy to answer any questions related to specific problems your students may be struggling with. Just drop me a note at or through my website at http://www.authorhamlett.com.
Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, professional script consultant, and ghostwriter. Her credits to date include 31 books, 157 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.